This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23 -- St. Thorlac of Skarholt

I might have gone with St. Victoria and Anatolia today, except that one of the sources dismisses them as pious fiction. Perhaps next year I will write about them, just in case they are real.

St. Thorlac is indisputably historical. Son of Thorhall, he was educated in Paris, France and Lincoln, England before returning to Iceland to serve as a bishop. His approach to clerical life was different than that of most Icelandic clergy; instead of marrying and raising a family, he dedicated his time to study, prayer, and pastoral care. He attempted to make his approach more common throughout Iceland, urging clerical celibacy and condemning the more corrupt approaches to appointing church officers.

Celibacy among priests (as a longterm strategy) may have been a poor choice, but priestly marriage in a dynastic era was obviously prone to corruption. The placement of younger sons in high religious offices in Europe was bad enough -- had priests and bishops produced their own heirs, there might have been no spots anywhere in the Church for those with aptitude and vocation.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Thorfinn is that he was canonized by the Althing, the representative assembly of Iceland. [I have read that it is the oldest continuous representative assembly in the world.] His canonization was never certified by Rome, but with two books of miracles, a cult in Iceland, and his own post on Hagiomajor, his sainthood is undeniable. I wonder, though, what other saints have been proclaimed by secular governments rather than religious authorities.

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